On Friday 3 November, our Year 6s took part in the ISA Sport U11 Rugby Union Tournament held at Bedford Athletics Rugby Club. This 12-team event showcases the very finest of independent schools U11 rugby talent in and around the Home Counties and to even be taking part requires not inconsiderable ability, such is the incredibly high standard of competition. As the reputation of the event dictates, there were going to be no easy matches.
The format comprised three first-round pools of four teams in the morning. In the afternoon, the winners of each pool comprised the second round Group 1, the runners-up Group 2 and so on to make up the four afternoon groups. In the morning pool stage, Hawley, captained by James, found themselves drawn in the same group as last year’s winners, Rushmoor, along with Holme Grange and The Grove.
First-round v Holme Grange
Hawley very quickly found themselves a try down as a superbly organised Holme Grange showcased their tidy tackling technique, quick, accurate handling and aggressive counter-rucking. Then Ollie broke up-field to set up James for a Hawley reply. Holme Grange then scored again and were looking the more dominant side as the Hawley defence was sorely stretched. Only two incredible try-saving tackles by Hugo on the try-line prevented a potential rout.
As if taking this as a signal to up the ante, Hawley fought back with Luca always first to the breakdown with his terrier-like, trademark burrowing style. His ball-winning skills paid dividends as a Holmes Grange infringement was penalised with a Hawley scrum. Will drove up-field which set up Ollie for a try. 2-2.
Then a huge break by Ollie threatened a try but the referee spotted a forward pass and, with time running out, a somewhat lucky draw was on the cards. All of a sudden, on the left touchline in the Holme Grange final third, Javier pounced on a loose ball, powered his way forward and presented the ball to Frankie who seized the chance and rumbled over for a match-winning try with the last play of the game. Incredible stuff!
First-round v The Grove
The second pool match was a lot more straight-forward. James opened the scoring with a mazy, try-line to try-line, run straight from The Grove’s kick-off but slack Hawley tackling allowed a fine solo effort to make it 1-1. Luca then set up Ollie from the breakdown before a tap and pass to Frankie saw him power over the line to touch down. A fantastic 5-1 win was then sealed with two solo efforts by James but, with The Grove proving to be the whipping boys of the group, would it be enough to see Hawley through as group winners?
First-round v Rushmoor
Rushmoor traditionally turn out a strong side, so there was no room for complacency in the final morning pool match. All started superbly as a ‘Frankie carry’ from deep in his half gained valuable territory before Will took the ball in the maul and set up Ollie to turn on the after-burners and score from halfway. Rushmoor were no mugs, however, and kept their composure, winning consistent ball at the breakdown where Hawley simply weren’t competing with the same intensity as in the previous two matches. Subsequently, Rushmoor ran in two unanswered tries, one in the final minute, to register Hawley’s first defeat in the competition.
As it transpired, the final Rushmoor try bore great significance as the pool was subsequently decided on tries scored – Holme Grange (11 tries) went through as group winners, Rushmoor (10) were second and, incredibly, Hawley (9) were third.
Second-round v Gateway
Gateway had struggled in the opening pool matches, and Hawley were quickly into their stride to register their biggest win of the day. Luca opened the scoring, his industry being rewarded by James who selflessly presented him with an unmissable chance straight from Gateway’s kick off. Connor then slalomed cross-field to score a wonderful solo effort in the corner. Gateway were meanwhile struggling to cope with Hawley’s aggression in midfield.
Where Luca had been the ball-winning star in the morning, Javier took up the baton in the afternoon’s matches, tackling devilishly and proving a constant menace on the ground. In the second half, a pass from Luca saw Kaya drive forward before William stripped the ball in the maul and ran over. 3-0 Hawley. Luca then created some space for himself and offloaded beautifully for William to score his second in the match.
Even at 4-0 up, the Hawley pressure was immense. James weaved his way over the try line and tried to set up Charlie C but a forward pass was spotted: no try. Then Javier pounced on a loose ball over the line, but play was brought back for a no-advantage infringement. Finally, Javier marked a well-deserved try after he intercepted a loose Gateway pass to romp over unopposed and secure a 5-0 win.
Second round v Copthill
Copthill had soundly beaten Gateway in the other afternoon Pool 3 match, so the final match of the day was much anticipated by some wonderful Hawley away support – as ever, you know who you are, and your support was way beyond the call of duty!
As the match started, Hawley did not seem entirely at the races and a sloppy feed from their line-out saw the ball turned over by Copthill and an all-too-easy try conceded. They would need to up their game to salvage the final match of the day and, boy, did they do it! Firstly Ollie scooted away to score another trademark breakaway try and that seemed to rekindle Hawley spirits. Javier broke from midfield and was unlucky to be brought down with the try-line begging. The tackling in midfield was really quite savage as both teams competed to try and win clean ball and then suddenly, Javier, ever the opportunist, captured an interception and ran over to score. 2-1 to Hawley.
Unfortunately, the Hawley try only seemed to inspire Copthill to greater heights, and they started to exert incredible pressure on the Hawley defence which was creaking. First Charlie C had to withdraw due to injury and then Connor quickly followed. What seemed like a certain Copthill try was miraculously averted by an incredible last-ditch tackle by Charlie H as Hawley defended frantically. With what was destined to be the final play of the match, Copthill had Hawley pinned on their try-line when the ball was smuggled to Ollie who produced an absolute stunner of a defensive kick – with the wrong foot – to clear the Hawley lines and secure the victory. What a breathless match!
Overall, the day was an incredible success for the lion-hearted U11s who – coached brilliantly by Mr McKay – all played their part to a man – P5 W4 D0 L1.
James (C), Kaya, Hugo, Charlie H, Charlie C, Connor, Luca, Will, Javier, Ollie, Frankie
Ollie 4, James 4, Frankie 2, Javier 2, Will 2, Luca 1, Connor 1
Players of the Tournament
Javier and Luca
Year 6 Teacher
Mr Conway and Mr Parry
Mrs Conway and Luca’s grandparents
Mrs Faulkner and Mr McEntegart